WORLD BURLESQUE DAY
April 26th marks the second annual World Burlesque Day, a global holiday devoted to the celebration and elevation of burlesque. We interviewed WBD’s creator, Sapphira, a London based burlesque performer, author, teacher, mentor, producer, singer/songwriter, mental health ambassador and entrepreneur.
BG: What is World Burlesque Day to you?
SAPPHIRA: I see World Burlesque Day as a way of boosting the scene’s global visibility and repositioning burlesque as a genre. My goal was to shift some of the stigma that is associated with it, help us become more celebrated and rise in popularity as we have seen happen with Drag and Pole Dancing. To create more visibility for our scene and accessibility to the public.
BG: What are your hopes and dreams for World Burlesque Day? How do you see it in 10 years?
SAPPHIRA: Like Gay Pride Day, I want burlesque to be accepted and loved and treasured. I want everyone to say, “Right, it’s the 26th of April. Don’t forget to bring your boas guys!” Corporations, universities, everybody is in the theme of burlesque on this day. That Christina Aguilera song is getting played on repeat all over the world and it’s just a day we acknowledge. As big as Pride has become for the gay community.
BG: That’s fantastic. I want a parade.
SAPPHIRA: I want to be on all the floats in every country! I had a visual of an opening ceremony with Brazil and they all come in full burlesque.
BG: I’ve seen my share of Gay Pride parades and Brazil always knocks it out of the park. I imagine a huge part of legitimizing World Burlesque Day is corporate support. You seem to have a flair for getting corporate sponsorship for something as stigmatized as burlesque.
SAPPHIRA: I know how to pitch burlesque to a corporation. I know how powerful my story is. When a corporation pitches it to their fan base and their distribution chain, their base suddenly will go from being a bit suspicious to thinking, “This is actually something we should trust, and we should try.” I’ve worked with Richard Branson’s company Virgin Atlantic and have been supported by Dita von Teese and the LMVH brand, San Francisco’s globally distributed Benefit Cosmetics.
BG: Fancy! Why did you decide on the date, April 26th, for World Burlesque Day?
SAPPHIRA: The reason was to commemorate one of the biggest influences in burlesque, Gypsy Rose Lee. Last year, April 26th marked 50 years since her passing. It felt like this day should be a big celebration of the life that she led. We’ll be having an exclusive webinar with Eric Lee Preminger, the son of Gypsy. You’ll get to ask Eric questions and see footage of his mom. We have 20 copies of Gypsy’s memoir to give away, donated by the publishing house.
BG: That sounds fantastic. You are somebody with a thorough understanding of burlesque in that you not only perform and produce, but also teach. Can you talk a bit about your school?
SAPPHIRA: I think I learned a lot about myself while being a teacher. You see a lot of yourself mirrored back at you when you’re in that role. I got to witness the evolution that I hoped I’d seen my teachers watch me go through, in other women. And I was doing it with a really holistic point of view. Suddenly these little butterflies all around me were just blossoming and coming out of their cocoons. Burlesque is a healing art form. This is what I was meant to do.
BG: You not only teach your students about the art of burlesque, but also how to write a bio, a press release, a business proposal, an email, etc.
SAPPHIRA: I learned how to write as a journalist. I started at age 16 in the radio station press teams, so I read a lot of press releases. I knew how to pitch stories and then piece that together with 20 years of selling and cold calling.
By mentoring people personally ‘Boost Your Burlesque Strategy’ programme I devised, I am able to help them raise the standard of their presentation and proposal writing to garner more visibility and business support for our scene. Even the simple things like structuring an email. That is so important. That is how I’ve done what I’ve done and where I am today. I write emails that are unforgettable to people.
Learning some of these tools, students are just blossoming so quickly. Under my mentorship, they’re getting results after just a few weeks. I thought it might take longer. I thought we would see results in a year, but I’m finding in week three, in just weeks, people are getting press and product sponsorship opportunities. So it’s been very, very rewarding.
BG: How has it been to teach while quarantining?
SAPPHIRA: I’ve been amazed that the pandemic created an international class room from my living room. Cyprus, Finland, Poland, Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland, USA and South Africa are under my mentorship now.
BG: What initially brought you to burlesque?
SAPPHIRA: In 2003 I left Australia after being excommunicated by a very strict Brethren Sect. In that process of nearly 16 years of my life, not liking who I was, thinking I was sinful, flawed, thinking all my sensual and creative impulses are of the devil, I had developed some very, very bad beliefs about myself. I was flamboyant, and for a good part of my life I was told that this was completely evil.
Coming to London I discovered that everything I was taught was really quite tarnished and from a very narrow point of view. I found my footing in this new life. Being a 25 year old in feathers and in sequins in this underground world was huge.
Years later I returned to Australia and was offered the opportunity to be in a musical. They said “We’re looking for a singing stripper.” and I said, “Really? What’s this musical about?” and they said, “Do you know Gypsy?” I said I’d heard of it and they said to come to the audition. And I was given the role of Electra the singing stripper.
BG: Ooh, I know that role. The stripper with the light-up costume. Congratulations.
SAPPHIRA: Thanks to that production, I learned a lot about Gypsy.
BG: One way that you are bringing the world together in celebration of WBD is through the World Burlesque Day Dance Challenge. Can you tell us a little about that?
SAPPHIRA: This is an online dance challenge to be held on TikTok. I have been deprived of the dance floor. I was a nightclub bunny. I might be in my 40’s, but that has never stopped this mama. They have shut the clubs. They have shut burlesque. They’ve shut cabaret. I’m forced to dance with my broom, and if I have to do that, everyone can do it. So we’re going to reclaim the dance floor. We’re going to do a dance challenge with some very silly steps to get the whole world dancing. I’m hoping it will find kids, and families, doctors, gardeners, in groups, mirroring us. I think it would be amazing if the whole world jumps on board.
BG: Are there specific dance moves?
SAPPHIRA: I will be teaching the dance challenge choreography every day in a free class at 1pm BST on Instagram Live from Tuesday April 20th– Monday April 26th.
BG: What song will people be dancing to?
SAPPHIRA: I’ve met some of the top tiers of the music industry and the World Burlesque Day 2021 Anthem is produced by Blowpops DJ/Producer and former Soho House New York resident DJ, Doc Moody and we’re putting out a drum and bass cover of “These Boots are Made for Walking” the Nancy Sinatra hit.
BG: Classic! How will you, Sapphira, be celebrating World Burlesque Day?
SAPPHIRA: On Saturday, April 24th, leading up to the launch, I’m going to be in South London wearing 100 balloons. We’re going to give everyone toothpicks to come and pop the balloons on my costume in tandem, film it, and see how quickly we can get them to do that. So I think I’m going to make a memorable debut.
BG: I ask only that you don’t use helium balloons, for fear we never see you again.
SAPPHIRA: That’d be a great way to go, if I had to make a dramatic exit.
For more on Sapphira and World Burlesque Day visit
To join Sapphira’s ‘Boost Your Burlesque Strategy’ Programme visit
To view the whole interview, visit Burlesque Galaxy’s Lusty Library!
Sure, well, I want to take you back to and the World Burlesque Day 2021 Anthem is produced by Blowpops DJ/Producer and former Soho House New York resident DJ, Doc Moody